Thursday, December 31, 2009

Impossible Germany (Pt. 1)

Top: melting a cone of sugar into the Christmas gluwein.
Bottom: Christmas Eve dinner with Amy, Simon, and Jurgen

I left December 23rd for Germany. I didn't have enough money to go home this year, and it would just have been too depressing to be in a country that didn't recognize anything significant on the 25th. So, I had a friend in Germany and I bought my ticket; fortunately, his girlfriend, Amy, is one of my good friends from back home and she flew out too. I had a great time spending Christmas with people that knew me already. I love my friends in St. Petersburg, but there's just something to be said for friendship that has history.

I flew in with my buddy, Jared, who works at the same school I do. His girlfriend lived in the same region and on the 24th he left us and surprised her with a ring. In Germany, Christmas Eve is the where most of the celebrating takes place. I went to church with Julian's family and it was great: it could have been my church back home (except for the whole speaking German thing). We then came back and had a 5 course dinner prepared by Julian's uncle who is an incredible chef. Afterward, we opened up presents and did a few family traditions. The party went well into the night and I had no problems falling asleep that night.

As a concession to my friends who prefer Twitter-size postings, I decided to break up this trip in to several different posts. You people make me sick.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


An interesting conversation on the bus today:

Man: Do you know the name of this bus stop?
Me: No, I'm a foreigner.
Man: Oh, really? Where are you from?
Me: From America.
Man: America?! Wow, you must be very rich then!
Me: Haha, no.
Man: You must have tons of "baksov" (the Russian declension for "bucks").
Me: Haha, no.
Man: Well, come on then, give me some so I can go drink a beer.
Me: I'm sorry. I didn't understand.
Man: Give some "baksov" so I can go drink a beer.
Me: I'm sorry. I didn't understand.
Man: 'Baksov', like rubles. Give me some rubles so I can drink a beer.
Me: Oh, I did understand you. Sorry, haven't got any.

Fortunately, at this awkward point in the conversation the bus pulled up to my stop and I got off.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crossing [Tuchkov Bridge] (shamelessly stolen from the Good Gray Poet)

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me!

On the [Tuchkov Bridge], the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose;

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Man's Home Is His Castle

Maybe it's the that mysterious leak from the wall when you do dishes for longer than 5 minutes, or the way the hall electrical outlet has melted the Russian-made extension cord, or the the electrical outlet that you can't use because if you pull the plug out the outlet comes with it. Maybe it's the window in the kitchen that you can't open because it was installed wrong or the washing machine that you have to hit in a certain spot to get it to start, or the pile of wet laundry on the floor waiting to be hung up on the drying rack that takes up most of my room. Maybe it's the toilet seat that refuses to stay up (and the ridiculous cost of buying of a new toilet seat. can one purchase a second-hand toilet seat somewhere?) or the hot water heater that requires you to manually adjust the temperature because the last repair man that came and fixed it advised us to do it that way rather than using the cold water at the same time to adjust the temperature. Or is it the cleaning lady that your landlord forced you to hire who comes once a month, wipes the counters in the kitchen, clogs the shower drain (?), and takes $20 from you? Maybe it's the dog that lives next door that barks at any movement on the stairwell. Maybe it's the other neighbors that smoke in the stairwell because it's too cold to go outside (which causes the dog to bark even more). Some might say it's the window over the park where large groups of young men gather late at night to drink, shout, light off fireworks, and urinate; all right underneath your window.

What is it that actually makes an apartment "crappy"?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We had a winter retreat for the high school and jr. high. I was one of the teachers that went along. I spent 70+ straight hours with my students... It was rough, but I made it. We had it just outside the city at the Finnish Theological Seminary. Once again, I stand impressed at the quality of all things Finnish. I think this is a common feeling of expats living in Russia: Finland = Good.